Lawyers doubt new guidelines will have an impact on relocation
Changes won’t stop councils relocating tenants
Government legislation intended to stop councils moving homeless families out of their areas will not have any more effect than the existing guidelines, lawyers have said.
A consultation on the type of private rented accommodation that is suitable for social landlords to use to meet their homelessness duties was launched by housing minister Grant Shapps last Thursday.
Source: Carl Court
The proposals require councils to take into account whether housing is suitably located, which Mr Shapps said was intended to stop them housing families outside their local area.
More than 48,500 people were accepted as homeless by councils in 2011, up 14 per cent from 2010. But lawyers warn that producing secondary legislation, which would legally require councils to consider existing family, school or work links when housing people in other areas, will not make much difference. Current guidance in the Housing Act 1996 states housing authorities should house people within their district ‘so far as reasonably practicable’.
In either case, councils must be able to prove that they have given regard to the location of the property.
Ian Graham, partner at law firm Trowers & Hamlins, said: ‘What this consultation document is saying is that if [the guidelines] are put in secondary legislation then it ratchets it up a bit, but the legal implications are not necessarily different. It will depend on what the legislation says and the circumstances of each case.’
Keith Jenkins, partner at Winckworth Sherwood, said councils must already justify housing decisions based on location and secondary legislation would not necessarily change how councils defend their decisions.
But Sir Robin Wales, mayor of Newham Council, which came under criticism in April when it was revealed it had sent letters to 1,179 landlords asking them to house 500 families as far afield as Stoke-on-Trent, said: ‘Every council is aware of its legal obligations. The minister has yet to offer solutions to the problems he has helped create.’